Image Credit: Photo: Atiq ur Rehman/Gulf News

Dubai: School transport operators in Dubai will have more reasons to step up their safety standards now as the Roads and Transport Authority announced the new annual Best School Transport Award on Sunday.

The RTA’s Public Transport Agency announced on Sunday that it will classify all school transport operators in Dubai into three categories before rolling out a new assessment system that will lead to an annual award for leaders in each category.

Dubai currently has 329 private school transport operators, in addition to 109 schools that operate their own school buses.

The RTA’s new initiative will see the transport operators divided into three groups with those operating a fleet of more than 100 school buses classified into Category One, while those with a fleet of 50 to 100 buses will be in category two and the companies operating less than 50 buses will be in the third category.

The top firm in terms of safety measures from the first category will be awarded annually, while the top two firms from the other two categories will also be rewarded for their best practices.

According to the RTA, the move aims to foster a competitive spirit between operators and motivate them to be innovative and excel in delivering services.

It also seeks to enhance the security and safety levels and increase the number of students using school buses in Dubai.

“The assessment of school bus operators is based on the best practices prevailing in Australia, UK, Canada, and Singapore,” said Mohammad Al Hashemi, Director of Planning and Business Development, Public Transport Agency.

He added that the criteria will include compliance of the operators with the security and safety issues and the implementation of the approved technical standards of school buses.

“The classification of companies will also be guided by initiatives they launch to increase the number of students using school buses and motivate bus drivers and attendants as well,” he added.

The school transport sector is growing steadily in Dubai. The number of operators has picked up from 233 companies in 2010 to 329 companies in 2017, recording an annual growth rate of 5.1 per cent.

“Through this initiative, RTA is seeking to bring happiness to students using school buses and raise the satisfaction rating of parents. Such an environment will trigger companies to excel in delivering world-class services focused on safety and security in this vital field,” added Al Hashemi.

The PTA recently held an induction workshop for school bus operators in Dubai. The workshop aimed to familiarise them with the above initiative.

Winners of the three categories will be announced in January next year.

Around 145,000 students from 200 private schools use buses run by school transport operators in Dubai.

With technological upgrades, new safety apparatus and better route planning, more than 6,500 buses rejoined the school run when the new academic year began in September this year.

This year, around 100 new buses joined Dubai’s school bus fleet, up from 6,400 buses last year.

The number of RTA certified school bus drivers has also increased from 6,093 last year to 6,134.